Tamarindo is located on a beautiful section of coast on the Northern Pacific side of Costa Rica. The tropical dry forest landscape and warm ocean meet along a rugged and diverse coastline with an abundance of sandy beaches, private coves, and volcanic rock. Here’s a list of some of our favorite activities to do around Tamarindo, as well as a few bonus day-trip options.
1. Sailing and Snorkeling -
This is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in Tamarindo. Meet up with your crew in the early afternoon and head out to sea for an afternoon of peaceful relaxation or an exuberant party atmosphere - depending which boat you’re on. Talk to the staff at CR Paradise (crparadise.com) to make a reservation on the right boat for your group.
2. SCUBA Diving -
Whether you’re a certified diver or not, SCUBA diving is the best way to get below the waves and closer to the abundant marine life of the tropical Pacific coast. Inexperienced divers can dive under close supervision on a Discover SCUBA dive down to a depth of approximately 40’ feet. The Catalinas Islands is home to a stunning array of marine life, including giant manta rays, white-tip reef sharks, eels, and a huge variety of colorful tropical fish. Giant schools of fish can also be found near the volcanic reef structures where you’ll be exploring.
3. Surfing -
Tamarindo is one of the best beaches in the world to learn to surf at. It has consistent break year round (typically best conditions for most local spots near high tide), with a variety of different breaks to check out right in Tamarindo or take the $1 water-taxi panga ride to Playa Grande. There are many spots favored by surf schools for the sandy bottom free from rocks, and rocky point breaks for more experienced surfers. There are many surf schools in town with accredited ISA instructors and daily group lessons available.
4. ATV Tours -
Hop on a quad and hit the road. Exploring the towns, beaches, and forest roads around the area is a great way to get out to see the surrounding countryside and explore other communities up the coast. Typically, our favorite tours start from outside of the center of Tamarindo and include transportation to and from the starting location. This keeps you out of congestion and traffic for more of your 2 or 3 hour guided tour.
5. Estuary Tour -
The small river flowing out into Tamarindo Bay is a thriving ecosystem in its own right. Home to crocodiles, monkeys, local and migratory birds, crabs, lizards, and a group of panga boat operators ready to take you out to explore the waterways, this is a great option to organize morning or afternoon. The tour lasts about 2 hours, may include a small walk down a path, and typically includes some light refreshments (fresh fruits, water). The tides change daily. Reach out to CR Paradise (crparadise.com) for information about the timing of this tour on the morning or afternoon of your choice.
6. Nature Hike -
There’s always something to find in the tropical dry forest - if you know where to look. Taking a nature hike in the hills behind Tamarindo with an experienced guide will likely find you face to face with some of the avian, reptilian, or mammalian local wildlife. Regardless of what animals you see, you’re sure to encounter some scenic views and interesting plants along the way.
7. Zipline / Canopy Tour -
With the right blend of adventure and adrenaline, zipline tours are a fantastic option for travelers looking to spend some time in the treetops. Some ziplines are shorter and more relaxed, almost like a nature walk through the treetops (without all the work) while others (further away in Monteverde in particular) feature cables up to one mile in length 100’s of feet in the air where you’ll feel like you’re flying. CR Paradise can help you find the right one for you!
These are a bit of a ‘cheat’ when talking about things to do in Tamarindo (because you’re really not IN Tamarindo for these ones), but our favorite day-trip-destinations are all accessible within 1.5-3.5 hours of driving.
1. Palo Verde -
If you’re a nature lover who’s willing to commit a little bit more time to an estuary boat tour, Palo Verde is approximately 1.5 hours by car from Tamarindo. One of the largest wetland sanctuaries in Central America, Palo Verde boasts some of the largest variety of local and migrating birds, and one of the largest concentrations of crocodiles anywhere!
Your day trip to Palo Verde can be done either driving yourself, or with transportation from Tamarindo included, and can involve cultural experiences such as visiting a sugar-cane plantation, or watching artisans craft the traditional Guatil pottery the area is known for.
2. Rincon de la Vieja -
An active volcano only a short 1.5 hour drive from Tamarindo, Rincon de la Vieja is one of our favorite day trips to get away from the coast. There are trail networks for hiking where you’ll see an abundance of wildlife, fumaroles or smoke-holes, mud pots, natural hot springs, and waterfalls.
There are also a variety of adventure-park properties where you can experience ziplines, horseback riding, river tubing, waterslides, hanging bridges, and more! Whether you’re looking for an adventure, or nature oriented day trip, Rincon de la Vieja is a great destination for a day trip.
3. Rio Celeste -
Located a 2.5 hour drive from Tamarindo in Tenorio National Park, the Rio Celeste is a beautiful day-trip destination. At slightly higher elevation, this is one of the closest spots to Tamarindo where lucky guests can spot a sloth in its natural environment.
Along this 3 hour hike, you’ll see primary rainforest, a stunning blue waterfall, a view point, blue lagoon, and a whole lot of stairs and mud! Typically, this is a manageable hike for anyone in reasonably good shape, as long as you’re willing to get a little bit dirty and take your time where needed. The reward is seeing the mixing of two volcanic tributaries forming the brilliant blue water the Rio Celeste is named for.
4. Monteverde -
This one is a bit of a stretch as a day trip from Tamarindo, but well worth it. We typically recommend hiring a private driver and Turismo van to bring you to Costa Rica’s famous tropical cloud forest. By letting someone else do the driving, you can depart before dawn, head up to the cool Santa Elena region to enjoy a few activities, and then safely return to Tamarindo after dark.
This day trip is NOT one that we recommend you try to do yourself in one day, as the roads at dusk in particular can be quite dangerous if you are not an experienced COSTA RICAN driver who knows what to expect and look out for. You will want to be alert, and with your early-morning start and adventures throughout the day, you may find your stamina waning. Best to have a dedicated driver.
As far as activities, Monteverde has amazing nature hikes, hanging bridges, ziplines (best in the country), bungee jumping, coffee tours, and horseback riding. Talk to CR Paradise (crparadise.com) to plan a customized trip that will include EXACTLY what you’re looking for.
Let CR Paradise help you make the most of your time in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!